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tv   Beyond the Headlines  ABC  November 8, 2015 4:30pm-5:01pm PST

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[ theme music plays ] >> welcome to "beyond the headlines." i'm cheryl jennings. the drought in california is a crisis affecting every one of us here in the bay area where we live. it is such a desperate situation that bay area mayors are reaching out to sacramento lawmakers, asking for help in using reclaimed water. abc7 news reporter david louie has the story. >> all eyes are on quadrupling the $72 million facility that purifies wastewater. it's a demonstration project that opened last year. elected officials would like to speed up the regulatory process. >> we simply need the state of california to get the regulations out of the way so we can move forward with the most important environmentally sustainable project of the decade. >> the plan is to inject the triple-treated wastewater into
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the underground aquifer through a pipeline system from north san jose to a sight near mineta san jose airport and to two other spots to the south. >> it's gonna take probably three years to five years to get that system in place. we're looking at moving this as quickly as possible. >> and it could be seven years before the purified water percolates into the ground and eventually is drawn into the drinking-water supply. because of the long timeline, a major focus now is on lawn removal and replanting with drought-tolerant plants. valley water district pays $2 per square foot, which covers from 20% to 66% of the cost. >> as i showed earlier, we'd only done 160,000 square feet before the drought. since then, we've done 2 million square feet of lawn, and we need to do millions, millions more. >> and san jose water company is seeking approval to install high-tech water meters to give customers feedback on their conservation. >> they're gonna have instantaneous information as to their water use, very much like pg&e. you know, one example i saw was you're gonna know when you flush your toilet.
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it gets down to that kind of granularity. >> that plan is awaiting state regulatory approval. in san jose, david louie -- abc7 news. >> so many things to think about. a prominent expert on water issues is here with us in the studio right now -- dr. david sedlak. he's a professor of civil and environmental engineering at uc berkeley and deputy director of the national science foundation's research center for re-inventing the nation's urban water infrastructure, and that's called renuwit? >> renuwit. that's right. yeah. >> that little acronym. so, we're watching, david. so, is it a long timeline to get that happening, to get that water into the aquifers? >> well, that's the way civil engineering projects go. if you think how long it took us to build the bay bridge, it takes a long time to build these massive projects because there's time to design and finance and build and test before they can be opened up to the public. >> but we're in a crisis right now because -- and, actually, this has been going on for awhile. this drought's been going on for so long. >> yeah, it usually takes people awhile before they get serious
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about taking action. so, right now, we're in the phase where the main thing we can do is conserve water, but if we get a few more dry years, we're gonna need to have projects like this in the pipeline, ready to be used. >> in your book -- you've written a book called "water 4.0," and i want to show it to the people at home. this talks about all the things that we want to talk about today -- using reclaimed wastewater, desalination. which of those two do you think are the most critical? >> well, for california, the first thing that we're gonna do is reclaim wastewater. so this is the last untapped water stream in california, and it's one that we've already been using for a number of years and has a lot of potential to take us through the drought without resorting to seawater desalination. >> i think a lot of folks are going, "wastewater? ew!" but it's actually -- you talk about this -- it's already in use. >> well, we've been doing this for over 40 years, so if you've ever been to disneyland in orange county and had a glass of tap water, you may have been drinking recycled water because
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that's one of the communities that's been using recycled water for over four decades. >> and nobody's complaining about it now because they have the water resource. >> they're pretty happy that they made these investments, and they're continuing to invest in this kind of technology. >> you talked about desalinization -- desalination -- i got to get that right -- and it's been in other countries. it's very controversial here, though. >> well, is controversial here, but it's finally coming. so this year, we're opening a 50-million-gallon-a-day seawater-desalination plant north of san diego, so we'll have our first major seawater-desalination plant on the west coast just in time for this summer's drought. >> the desalination, why is that controversial? >> the main reason it's controversial is that historically desalination has just used a lot of energy, and that emits a lot of greenhouse gases, and so people are very concerned about any way of producing water that uses a lot of energy and costs a lot of
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money. >> and the salt residue from that, is that a problem? >> well, if you're on the coast, those salts are released back into the sea, and provided that you have a way to mix the brine that result from the treatment process back into the ocean, it tends not to be a problem. >> and so other countries who do this have not had any fallout from that? >> you can look around the world -- you can look at australia, you can look at israel, spain, a lot of the middle eastern and caribbean countries -- and they do this without damaging the ocean. >> okay, so that's one potential resource, but we have a lot more to talk about. dr. sedlak is going to be with us for another segment, talking about the drought, using seawater, and all sorts of other ways that we can save water while we're in this big drought. we'll be right back. stay with us.
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a small desalination plant in the east bay is actually turning out to be a big help as water districts scramble to find new water sources. abc7 news reporter david louie shows us how the newark plant came to be and how it's helping now. >> this desalination plant is proving to be a major benefit during the drought, but the drought wasn't the reason it was built. >> it helps to mitigate or offset some of the supplies during a drought, and it is actually a cost savings for us, as well. we're saving about $4 million a year in that we don't have to purchase more expensive water supplies. >> it was built 12 years ago because of saltwater incursion into the groundwater basins that supply the cities of fremont, newark, and union city. area creeks and runoff feed into quarry lakes. the water percolates into the ground, but salt water from san francisco bay has mixed in. without desalination, the water is undrinkable. >> there was historic pumping issues here in this local area that drew the groundwater basin down, and so it drew water from the bay, actually, in toward our
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groundwater basin. and we have an active recharge program to continue pushing that water out towards the bay, and the water in this area still tends to be a little bit brackish. >> the desalination plant puts the brackish water through reverse osmosis using a microscopic membrane to filter out salt crystals and other minerals. the water that comes out of this plant then is blended with some well water for taste and then is distributed right through the pipes to residences and businesses in fremont, newark, and union city. and it tastes just like regular tap water. the 10 million gallons of water produced each day gives the district flexibility in its water supply. 40% comes from local sources, while 60% is imported. in newark, david louie -- abc7 news. >> i'm happy to say david is still with us today even after drinking [chuckling] that recycled water. all right, dr. david sedlak is with us again. he wrote this book called "water 4.0." he is a professor at uc berkeley, and we just saw david's report.
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we talked about desalination and how that is something that we absolutely have to consider, but you also talk about recapturing stormwater, so if we ever have rain again, that's one way to consider. >> sure, i mean, it seems like a tragedy that all this water that falls on our cities just runs into flood canals and back out into the ocean. so if we could capture that and make it part of our water supply, we'd be a lot better off. >> well, i heard reports that there might be rain eventually, so i was thinking about going and getting a big container and taking off my drain from the roof, and is that not a good idea? >> it would be a great idea if you lived in seattle, where it rains a little bit every day. but think about it -- we only had two big rainstorms last winter. your roof barrel would've filled up right away, and then the first week that you needed it for gardening, it would've been all gone. what we need to do is we need to build massive rainwater-capture systems and get that water underground into our drinking-water aquifers if we want to get serious about this. >> i think that one of the -- you started to talk earlier
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about conservation, and there's a percentage that we've been asked to do -- 25% to 30%. is that reasonable? >> it depends where you live. if you live in a suburban area, it's quite possible that half or more of your water use happens outdoors, and in that case, cutting back 25% to 30% really just means letting your lawn go brown and not starting a garden or doing something like that. if you live in san francisco or a densely populated city, then it's gonna be a lot harder to cut back by 25%, especially if you've already installed things like front-loading washing machines and low-flow fixtures, shower heads, and toilets. that would be a tough go. >> and, also, how is that going to affect our sewer system if there's not that much liquid flowing through there? >> oh, gosh, at some point, the sewers don't work the way they were designed. that is, they were designed back in the days when people were using 75 or 100 gallons per person, per day, indoors -- the amount that we use outdoors now -- and that assured that all the stuff we put in the sewer
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kept moving. when we put in these water-saving conservation devices, the material stops moving and the sewers stop functioning the way they were designed. >> so that's not a good thing. [ laughs ] >> that's definitely not a good thing. >> what about the use of -- there were times when i was able to use my graywater from my washing machine just to keep my lawn alive when the drought was really bad several years ago. is it a little risky? >> well, no, there's nothing dangerous about it, and it's something we certainly can do. it has the problem of not putting the water in the sewer system to flush the solids, but the other thing is it's really only those us who are really dedicated who are gonna follow through with that. so i can't imagine more than a small percentage of people in the state actually using the graywater from their showers and their washing machines on the lawn all the time. >> it's a lot of work 'cause i had buckets everywhere. >> yeah, and i think one might lose the enthusiasm for it after a year or two. >> so, i know that, in your book, you call for a water revolution. are we ready for that psychologically? >> revolutions happen when
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technologies become obsolete and when new technological innovations are there, ready to be taken up, and i think we're primed for a water revolution. and, in fact, you can even see outlines of that revolution here in california. so my prediction is, if we come back in 10 years, we're gonna see a drastically different water system that's gonna help us survive future droughts. >> so, final call to action from you -- what we can do right now? you talked about some of those things. >> yeah, it's not really a question of what you do in your home. it's what you do with elected officials being members and being active in your local utility and your city council and advocate not for what we had in the past, but the water system that we need to get us through the future. >> and we should be prepared for our water bills to go up. >> hey, they're going up one way or another. they might as well buy something that's gonna get us through the 21st century. >> all right. dr. david sedlak, author of the book "water 4.0" -- i want to thank him so much for being here today, and you can find information about him on our website -- abc7news.com.
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now, when we come back, you're going to see how and why a bay area women's college is reaching out around the world to raise awareness about water issues. stay with us. issues. stay with us. we'll be right back. you see this look on my face? sfx: growling that's not anger, that's hunger. so i'm gonna have a snack to make me feel better and once i do you will see a look of satisfaction and contentment blossom across my face. see, now i feel better. make your tummy happy mmm yoplait
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thank you so much. did you say honey? hey, try some? mmm that is tasty. is it real? of course... are you? nope animated you know i'm always looking for real honey for honey nut cheerios well you've come to the right place. great, mind if i have another taste? not at all mmm you're all right bud? never better i don't know if he likes that. yeah part of the complete breakfast >> welcome back to "beyond the headlines." i'm cheryl jennings, and today we're talking about california's water shortage and what to do about it. mills college in oakland recently held a international conference on water issues with emerging female leaders from several countries, and i had the great privilege of hosting one of the classes to show them how to use the media and social
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media to get their messages out to the communities. and the woman who led that conference is with me in the studio right now -- alecia decoudreaux, the president of mills college. and thank you for being here today, doctor. i really appreciate it. >> thank you for having me. >> that conference was so inspiring, getting to meet all those young women who are so passionate about wanting to do something for the world and this whole water situation. so, what inspired you to hold that conference? how did that come about? >> well, our students inspire me to do just about everything that we do. but mills college joined the women in public service project a number of years ago. you may know that it was started by secretary of state hillary rodham clinton in conjunction with the state department and women's colleges across the country. when mills joined, we decided that we would hold an institute to focus on water, recognizing how important water is in general and particularly to women. so our conference was titled "women, water, and the world: how women can help solve the world's water crisis," and it was truly inspiring to have 25 women representing 22 countries
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at this conference, all of whom are in early to mid career level and all of whom are very involved in water issues in their countries. and our students had the opportunity to interact with them for 10 days, to learn from them, to be inspired by them, and to learn from others in our local community, as well. because we spent a day at stanford, we spent some time here in san francisco working with a number of government officials here, and it was just an incredible opportunity for our entire community. >> so, now that it's been awhile since the conference, what was the feedback from both sides -- the emerging leaders and from your own students? >> well, i'll start with the emerging leaders and say that we're still hearing from them. they are still telling us what an extraordinary experience it was, how much they learned, how excited they were to not only learn from the speakers we had lined up for the conference, but to learn from each other, as well. and they are very excited about now having this incredible network of other women who are
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involved in public service in various parts of the world that they can turn to on a regular basis. they've been in touch with us several times, as well, and continuing to reach out to mills college, so that's a real plus. one of the things that i was very excited about is that many of them said they wanted to come to mills to go to school -- they wanted to go back to school. and most of them recognized that that wasn't necessarily a possibility, and so they said they would definitely be sending some potential students to us, so that was exciting. from the standpoint of our students, they learned so much from the delegates. because we had such an extraordinary group of delegates, our students had women who were doing incredible work all over the world, who they could talk to about issues that are very, very much on their minds. our students are very committed to social responsibility. they're very committed to environmental responsibility. they talk about sustainability all the time, and more importantly, they live sustainably. >> so, how do you do that on campus? 'cause that's a big campus. >> it is a big campus.
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one of the things that our students do is that they recycle regularly. they reuse as much as they possibly can. they also engage in contests, so our residence halls will have contests to see who can generate the most compost and who can recycle the most. and so they really do try to make it fun, but they're very committed to it. we also have opportunities from time to time for students to come and work on the campus. we have been out there digging up plants that require too much water and replanting with drought-resistant plants, and the students participate in that. we, of course, have done the other things that we can do, such as putting in low-flow toilets and making sure that we've got the shower heads such that we're conserving water. so we do as much as we possibly can, and much of it is led by our students. >> that has got to be so exciting for you as a leader to see how they're taking this to the next level. >> yes. i've learned a lot since i came to mills college. i'm doing more composting than
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i've ever done before. i am certainly paying much more attention to the amount of water that i personally use, and i think we all are, but i think it's our students who helped me to see how important that individual actions could be in the long run. >> all right, thank you so much for being here. thank you for that conference, and thank you for inviting me to be a part of it, too. >> our pleasure. >> all right. and we do have to take a short break. we're gonna be right back, though, to continue our discussion on the power of women in dealing with the world's water emergency. so stay with us. we'll be right back.
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>> welcome back to "beyond the headlines." we are talking about the global concerns about water and the role of women in addressing water issues. mills college in oakland recently hosted a weeklong global conference on women and water rights, and i had the great pleasure of speaking with a few of the conference attendees. >> yeah, women suffer most especially coming from a country like kenya, which is water-scarce. so women are most affected by
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water because they are the ones that have to go out to provide water for their families, which takes up a lot of their productive time that would be used for income generation. >> if you train a man, then you will train that person. if you train a woman on, for example, how to build water infrastructure, then you build a nation. so women have an amazing capacity to...build and make countries grow. >> in the studio with me right now is gemma bulos. she is the director of the global women's water initiative. and, gemma, i'm looking at this big old yellow thing here. this is what women in countries overseas have to carry for water. >> yes, it would be carrying five gallons of water. it's called a "jerrican." and that full of water is 42 pounds. >> 42 pounds to carry this? so i can lift this easily now. you can see it's quite big, but very, very, heavy so -- >> that's like a seven-year-old child you'd be carrying.
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>> and on uneven terrain. >> on uneven terrain. women carry this on their back, their shoulders, their heads because they don't have other means to transport it. and oftentimes, women can take up to eight hours, especially in sub-saharan africa and water-stressed areas, up to eight hours just fetching water with their young girl children, as well. so what that means is women can't work, they can't be productive, and girls can't go to school. so you can imagine the kinds of social impacts, how it affects women and girls just not having access to water. >> and if you have to carry just that small amount of water for your food and for washing and everything else that one might need, it's horrible because you can't -- and plus you don't know whether the water is even clean. >> exactly. exactly. the united nations actually defines access to water as five gallons of water per person, per day, and less than a 15-minute walk. and so just that one gallon is only enough water to provide for
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one family member. can you imagine the 5 or the 6 or the 10 family members in that family? and you're right -- when it's dirty, it actually can even affect the women even more because they're the caretakers of the family. so when a family member gets sick, they have to spend monies on medicine, to take the sick person to the clinic. they lose more time because they have to do all of that stuff, so you can imagine. >> but tainted water also causes health problems for kids that are terrible and possibly even fatal. >> oh, very much so. diarrhea is probably one of the highest causes of mortality for children under five. >> mm. >> and 3 to 5 million people die of water-related disease every year. >> you have a great video on your website that shows some of the women who have to go and get the water and then bring it back, and you've been dealing with this issue, so what can we all do? how can the communities of the world help with this? >> so, because women are most affected by the lack of water --
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and, actually, also, sanitation and hygiene, all of that is all connected. you can't have access to water and not have it be clean. you're still at risk of getting sick. same with sanitation -- if you have sanitation but you don't have good hygiene practices, you'll get sick. so a lot of it is awareness that this is not just an investment in a well. this is an investment in a community that can have access to water -- clean water -- sanitation, so toilets, as well as good hygiene practices. so how it affects women and girls is that they are the ones who lose out on all the opportunities because of the lack of access to water and sanitation. so our goal is to train women and girls how to build water and sanitation technologies that can help them so that they can have more opportunities. >> so it's not just about getting water -- it's about teaching them to be leaders. >> exactly. exactly. the united nations' food and agriculture organization found
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that the exclusion of women in water and sanitation projects was the cause of their high rate of failure. women were not included in an issue that affects them the most. so our goal was not just to have them be the recipients of failed water projects, but to be the actual implementers. so our women who we train, they know how to build rainwater-harvesting systems and water-storage tanks. they know how to build toilets. they know how to build water filters. they make soap, shampoo, reusable menstrual pads -- they make everything, and they make money doing it. >> oh, boy, i need to know more about this, but unfortunately, we have run out of time. gemma, thank you for what you're doing. i appreciate it very much. >> thank you for having me. >> and we have more information for you about today's programs and resources where you live. just go to our website -- abc7news.com/community. we're also on facebook at abc7communityaffairs. and please follow me on twitter -- cherylabc7. i'm cheryl jennings. have a great week. we will see you next time. thanks for joining us.
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the fight intense, the flames raging. smoke just pouring out. >> the difficulties firefighter face fight egg the flames in san francisco and the people this fire left out in the cold tonight. >> the fire consumed a tire store at 16th and shotwell street in mission district. burning so intensely thick black smoke could be seen for miles. as far away as marin county. >> cornell bernard is at the scene of the developing story. this fire has displaced more t

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